Subjunctive: Irregular Conjugations

Subjonctif : conjugaisons irrégulières

French subjunctive
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Many otherwise irregular French verbs have regular subjunctive conjugations – but there are exceptions. Stem-changing verbs and what I like to call very, extremely, or ridiculously irregular verbs have irregular subjunctive conjugations.

Stem-changing verbs

Stem-changing verbs have a two-stem subjunctive conjugation.

1) The present tense third person plural (ils) conjugation provides the stem for singular as well as third person plural subjunctive conjugations (just as it does for regular verbs), the upshot of which is that the stem change occurs in these conjugations.

2) The stem for the first and second person plural is based on the present tense first person plural (nous) conjugation.

  lever jeter essayer
present tense:  ils  lèvent jettent essaient
  stem  lèv- jett- essai-
subjunctive¬†endings   ¬† ¬†
… que je / j’ -e l√®ve jette essaie
… que tu -es l√®ves jettes essaies
… qu’il/elle/on -e l√®ve jette essaie
… qu’ils/elles -ent l√®vent jettent essaient
¬† ¬† ¬†   ¬†
present tense:  nous  levons jetons essayons
  stem  lev- jet- essay-
… que nous -ions levions jetions essayions
… que vous -iez leviez jetiez essayiez

Very irregular verbs

Very irregular verbs*  follow this same two-stem pattern:

  devoir prendre tenir
present tense:  ils  doivent prennent tiennent
  stem  doiv- prenn- tienn-
subjunctive endings      
… que je -e doive prenne tienne
… que tu -es doives prennes tiennes
… qu’il/elle/on -e doive prenne tienne
… qu’ils/elles -ent doivent prennent tiennent
¬† ¬†   ¬† ¬†
present tense:  nous  devons prenons tenons
  stem  dev- pren- ten-
subjunctive endings   
… que nous -ions devions prenions tenions
… que vous -iez deviez preniez teniez

 * As opposed to irregular verbs that have regular subjunctive conjugations.

Extremely irregular verbs

Seven extremely French verbs have irregular subjunctive stems but take the same endings. Of these,

  • faire, pouvoir, and savoir have a single subjunctive stem
  • aller, valoir, and vouloir follow the two-stem pattern: one for the singular and the third person plural conjugations, and the other for the first and second person plural
  faire pouvoir savoir aller valoir vouloir
stems  fass- puiss- sach- aill- / all- vaill- / val- veuill- / voul-
… que je / j’ fasse puisse sache aille vaille veuille
… que tu fasses puisses saches ailles vailles veuilles
… qu’il/elle/on fasse puisse sache aille vaille veuille
… que nous fassions puissions sachions allions valions voulions
… que vous fassiez puissiez sachiez alliez valiez vouliez
… qu’ils/elles fassent puissent sachent aillent vaillent veuillent

And number 7? The impersonal verb falloir has only one subjunctive conjugation: … qu’il faille.

Ridiculously irregular verbs

Of course, the ridiculously irregular verbs avoir and être remain true to form in the subjunctive, with two irregular stems as well as irregular endings:

¬†   avoir   √™tre¬†¬†¬†
… que je / j’   aie   sois
… que tu   aies   sois
… qu’il/elle/on   ait   soit
… que nous   ayons   soyons
… que vous   ayez   soyez
… qu’ils/elles   aient   soient

 Subjunctive Quizzes

Think you’ve got it? Test yourself on the French subjunctive with these fill-in-the-blanks exercises:

Note: You must be logged into your Progress with Lawless French account to take these tests. If you don’t have one, sign up – it’s free!

  More French subjunctive

French lesson plans French Lesson Plans

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French subjunctive - irregular verbs

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